Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

O'Connor Adapting To Life in Moscow

Lokomotiv and Scotland stiker Gary O'Connor was a frustrated bystander as his side was held to a disappointing 0-0 draw with newly promoted Kuban on Sunday.

At the start of his second season with Lokomotiv, O'Connor, 23, is sidelined after a second hernia operation in one year.

After a training session late last week, however, O'Connor remained optimistic about the season ahead. "I'm looking forward to getting fit and coming back to play," he said. The doctors say the tall, athletic striker is three weeks away from full fitness.

O'Connor is especially keen to bounce back from a difficult season in 2006. Following a ?1.6 million ($3 million) move from his boyhood club, Hibernian, in Edinburgh, the striker scored just eight goals in 29 appearances for Lokomotiv last year.

As the 2007 campaign gets underway, there is a positive spirit in the Lokomotiv camp, O'Connor said. Two new signings, Romanian forward Rezvan Kocish and Brazilian defender Rodolfo, are settling in to the team, and new manager Anatoly Byshovets has the players believing they are contenders for the title.

"Our aim for Lokomotiv is to be champions of Russia. We have a very good squad. We want to win the league and we want to win the Russian Cup, and we want to do well in the UEFA Cup," he said.O'Connor also says his football is improving as he adapts to the Russian game.

"In Russia the standard is very high, and it's very difficult to score goals. Defensively, they're very good. In games you maybe sneak one chance, and you have to take it."

"We have very good coaches who have taught me different ways of playing," he said. "And the new manager is a good man. He speaks very good English, and has a very good knowledge of football. He can bring different things to my game because he was a very successful striker in his day."

Given his wife's well-publicized struggle to adapt to life in Moscow, it was widely expected that O'Connor would return to Britain in the January transfer window.

Despite reported interest from English clubs Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa, however, O'Connor stayed put.

"My wife is getting used to Russia's lifestyle. But she's from the country. We prefer Edinburgh. It's quieter, not too lively. But the new apartment is a beautiful place, and we're really happy with this. I have a driver and we're starting Russian lessons."

The striker still doesn't rule out the possibility of a transfer this summer.

"At the moment, I'm happy in Russia, but when the transfer window comes, you can never tell. Maybe a team comes in for me and Lokomotiv accepts, and I accept. But at the moment I am happy," he said.

2006 was a difficult year for O'Connor off the field as well, and his troubles came to a head when he failed to report for a European Championship qualifying match.

The striker was savaged in the Scottish media, and many speculated that his international career was over. O'Connor has since apologized, but for some, it was too little too late.

"Maybe I should have apologized earlier, but I don't regret it in any way. I stick by my decision why I came out of the squad, because of my family problems," he said.

"It was a very difficult time for my family. My wife was crying to me all the time, wanting me to return home. My sister had problems. It was a very difficult time, and my head was not in the right place to play a qualifying match."

The Sunday Mail, a Scottish newspaper, reported at the time that O'Connor's sister, a recovering drug addict, had attempted suicide three weeks before he failed to turn up for international duty last October.

O'Connor has come a long way since then, and now has the air of a man emerging from adversity with a renewed sense of purpose. "They [the press] can write what they want about me. I will do the stuff on the field and I will show them who I am."

O'Connor is also hopeful for a recall to the Scotland team. The new manager, Alex McLeish, was at Hibernian when the striker got his start.

"I'm just focused on playing well for Lokomotiv and then he [McLeish] can come and see me, and I can hopefully show him what I can do on the pitch," he said. "I can see a second chance."